Signal is one of the best encrypted messengers in the market. It offers robust security, minimizes user information and is free to use. Switching to it as the main messenger can be a bit scary, to help, we created a guide to go through the process.
As Signal continues to grow, many of its new features disappear on new users. Not only has Signal added new ways to keep your conversations private, but they have also added iMessage-like features to make it easier for people to make the switch and improve communication. But as with all messaging services, to take full advantage of its features, you need the receiver to also use Signal.
Our hope with this guide is that it helps you figure out how to set up Signal and get the most out of it. We also hope that you share this article with friends and family, so when you ask them to change, the process is not as disturbing. With luck, all of your conversations will enjoy the security and integrity of Signal's end-to-end encryption.
Step 1: Get the latest version of signal
The first thing you want to do is to make sure you are using the latest version of Signal Private Messenger. The signal is continuously updated, and new features continue to come to the platform. The easiest way to accomplish this is to go to your app store and either install Signal if you do not already have it or update the app if the "Open" button is replaced by "Update" in the app list.
- Install Signal Private Messenger: Android (free) | IOS (Free)
Step 2: Register with Your Phone Number
How the app appears when you open it is different depending on the operating system you are using. For Android, a popup will be displayed informing you that you need to provide signal access to your contacts, storage and phone calls for it to work. After selecting "Continue", a series of permissions profiles that you must accept will be displayed, and after that you will be taken to the registration screen.
On iPhones, the registration screen is available directly, without having to provide the app-specific permissions first.
On the screen, Signal asks you for your phone number. While using a burner number, we recommend that you use your actual phone number, as this is how the contacts will find you on Signal. Enter either a valid phone number and select "Register".
A verification code is sent to this phone number as a text, and you must enter this code on the next page. For Android, once you have entered the correct code, it automatically takes you to a new page. But for iOS you have to hit "Send" after entering the correct code.
On Android, the next page will ask you to enter a name and add an image that will appear when you talk to other signal users. Fill in this information and then select "Save" to complete the installation process.
On iOS, a popup appears asking if you want Signal to send messages. Select "Allow", which will give you the "Profile" page, where you can enter a name and a picture. Select "Save" to complete the installation process.
Step 3: Set the Signal as Default SMS App (Android)
When you arrive on the main page of Android, a banner appears asking if you want to "Use as default SMS app." Select the banner and a popup will appear if you want to make Signal the default app for SMS messages (plain text to your phone number). With this change, you can manage both Signal Messages and regular text messages all within one app. Select "Yes" on the popup to accept this change.
On IOS, Signal cannot be used to manage SMS. Instead, the only communication is possible between other Signal users. To get the most out of the app, you need to invite your friends.
On Android, at the top right, select the three vertical dots and then select "Invite Friends" from the submenu. On the next page, select "Select contacts" and select from saved contacts you want to switch to Signal. Once selected, select "Send SMS to X Friends" (X represents the number of contacts you selected).
Another way to invite friends is to start a conversation with them over traditional SMS (Android only). Show under their name is a blue banner that asks you to "Invite to Signal" for conversations between non-Signal users. If you select this banner, a text message will be created to be sent, which will include a link to install the app on its phone.
This banner can become quite annoying after a while, especially for saved contacts you know will not make the switch. Fortunately, you can remove it. Select the three vertical dots in the upper right corner of the main page and select "Settings". Select "Chat and Media" and disable the switch next to "Show Invitation Notifications". This switch removes the blue banner from non-signaling users. This feature is exclusive to Android, as the iOS version cannot communicate with non-signaling users.
Signal does not use either iOS iCloud or Android Google Drive service due to privacy concerns. When you switch phones, your existing chats will not be automatically transferred.
On Android there is a solution. By creating a locally stored encrypted backup, your messages are secure and can be restored when you switch phones. This feature also enables automatic backup. While you cannot control how often they occur or even where they are located, often do so if you forget to create a backup, you should use an automatic copy of your messages using the automatic backup files. For a tutorial on how to do this, check the link below.
While Signal itself is a very secure end-to-end encrypted messaging service, you can improve security by utilizing some of its options. On Android, select the three vertical dots in the upper right corner and select "Settings". On iOS, select your picture or first letter in your username. On the next page, select "Privacy."
Under the menu Privacy you will find some options to improve your security. The first is "Screen Lock", which requires you to authenticate yourself to access the app either with fingerprint / face scanner or your lock screen code. Select the shift next to "Screen Lock" to enable this feature.
You can adjust the time before the app is locked and requires authentication using "Disabled Screen Saver Timeout". For those who want to maximize security, the lowest time on Android is one minute. Once you have set the Signal app for one minute, it will be locked and require authentication to see your messages. IOS users can set this up so that it locks as soon as you leave the app.
Another security feature is "Screen Security". This feature blocks the preview of the app in your latest app list (multitasking screen). On Android, you also prevent you from taking any screenshots in Signal. It does not prevent those you communicate with from taking a screenshot, but it can protect you from a malicious program that somehow finds a way to hack your device and take screenshots without you knowing.
Since Android users can benefit from third-party keyboards, Signal contains another privacy feature, "Incognito keyboard". This feature protects Gboard (or other keyboard programs that use the correct APIs) from learning how to text. Because the keyboard programs need to capture every word you input by nature, this protects the conversation from being read by a malicious app. Note that this will disable voice typing.
Signal not only lets you send messages but also lets you voice and video calls, giving the same level of protection as text-based messages. However, voice calls can reveal your IP address to the caller at the other end. While we assume that you trust people in your contacts, even a friend can use this information to make an attack. But when you turn on "Always relay call" switches in Signal menu Privacy goes first through Signal's servers, protecting your real IP address from leakage.
Finally, activate "Registration Lock" (known as registration lock PIN on Android). This feature adds another layer of protection for new devices registered in your phone number by requiring the use of a PIN. When a device registers with your phone number, they can receive all Signal messages. This feature prevents this.
Step 7: Hide Messages
For those who want true privacy, you need to hide your signup notifications Every incoming warning appears on the lock screen , fully visible to everyone, even if you do not unlock your phone. While this is convenient, it opens us to a private life. The safer method is to hide these messages so that they do not appear on the lock screen. There are two methods to achieve this. We start with it easier.
Choose either the three vertical tracks in the upper right corner (Android) and select "Settings" or tap your image or the first letter of your username in the upper left corner (iOS ). Select "Messages" and select "View".
There are three options you can choose from: "Name and Message", "Name Only" and "No Name or Message". To protect the contents of the message, select "Only name". Once you have selected, new messages will show the name of the person and inform you that you have a new message, but the content cannot be read anywhere outside the app.
Alternatively, you can hide Signals messages via the phone's main settings. On IOS, select Settings from the Home screen, select "Messages" and then select "Signal". Here you will find several options for configuring messages, for example, where it appears, if it creates a sound and if it creates an app name.
At least we recommend opening "View previews" and either holding "When unlocked (Standard)" or switching to "Never". The former will only reveal the contents of the message when you unlock the phone, while the latter will keep the content locked until you open the Signal app. The biggest advantage of "Never" is that you better protect yourself from shoulder burning (individuals reading your screen behind you).
On Android, the process is different depending on the OEM skin and version of Android you're running. But we will explain to layers Android running Android 9.0 Pie, as this is the latest version and base of all skins.
Open settings from your appbox and select "Apps & notifications." Select "View all X apps" and select Signal from the list. Select "Messages" and select "Standard" under the group Messages . Select "Advanced" and select "On lock screen."
A popup appears with three options. Select either "Hide sensitive content" or "Don't show messages at all". The former hides the contents of the message on the lock screen and will only reveal them after unlocking the Signal app. The latter will not display the message at all, so the only way you know you have a new message is to open the Signal (or receive an app tag if this is enabled in the starter's settings).
Signal has recently added many features to bridge the gap between them and iMessage or RCS messages. These features include reading receipts, type indicators, and "Send link previews", which show a preview of which website you are linking to in a chat. You can find all of these options in the "Privacy" menu in Signal's settings.
With "Read Receipts" you can get a visual confirmation that the recipient is reading your message. If both you and the recipient have this feature enabled, a circle will appear when you send a message with a checkmark next to it when it was sent. When delivered, two circles are displayed. Once read, the circles become gray.
The "Type Indicator" lets you see when the recipient writes a message. A series of dots will show that they are currently writing a message so that they know they are active.
Finally, there is "Send link previews". When enabled, links from Imgur, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube can be previewed in the Signal Message that gives you an idea of what the content of the link is.
Step 9: Learn How to Send Disappearing Messages
A stack of secure messaging programs is the ability to send vanishing messages. These are messages sent with an expiration date that you assign before submitting. Once you have set, the message will be deleted when you have determined the length of time.
When a vanishing message is sent, it converts all future messages into that conversation to disappear messages. But after receiving a missing message, a quick text is displayed which allows you to change the length of time. This does not change the original messages – rather future messages. You can also end these outgoing messages altogether.
Because It Is Common For users to switch phones it is possible for a hacker to use this. By learning either your phone number or the number of people you communicate with, they can register their device and continue the conversation. With security numbers, Signal protects against this by allowing you to verify that the person you are talking to is actually the person you think it should be.
By either scanning their QR code or comparing their security number, you can verify a contact After approval, all changes must be manually approved by the other party before a new message is sent. That way, your conversation stops and prevents a hacker from acting like you.
Unfortunately, relationships end badly and we decide that we cannot talk to that person. This does not mean that the other person agrees and requires that we take measures to prevent further communication. Blocking a user prevents you from receiving new messages from them (and sending new messages to them).
Unblocking them does not allow you to receive messages sent when they were blocked. Instead, it lets new messages come in and lets you send messages to them again.
And thus, you can enjoy Signal. There are some other options to play with, but you have the basics down pat. Share this guide with your saved contacts to remove any reservations they may have to switch to this wonderful service. Remember that end-to-end encryption only occurs when you talk to other Signal users, so in order to take full advantage of this app, you need your friends to use it as well.
This article was created during the Gadget Hacks special coverage on smartphone privacy and security. Watch the entire privacy and security series.